Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Have a Soulful Relationship

Over the years, there have been countless books written on relationship development and improvement. Many of those authors have touched on the subject of injecting soul into a relationship, but that’s a tricky thing indeed.

After all, what is the soul? How does it differ from the mind, or indeed the heart? Some might say the soul is that indefinable something that makes you who you are.

Having a soulful relationship, therefore, would mean having a relationship where you, and your partner, are free to be yourself, without fear of recrimination, or judgment, and to have your partner do the same. It would also mean feeding your soul, by doing the things you love, either as a couple, or on your own.

Easier said than done in this modern world, where divorce is no longer a scandal and multiple marriages are the order of the day. So just how can you inject a little soul into your relationship, feed your soul, stay happy, and committed? We don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas from the experts.

10. Love Unconditionally

This is the basis on which any soulful relationship is built. Unfortunately, it’s also the most difficult to achieve.

While in theory, maintaining love for your partner regardless of what happens in your life, what they do, say or omit, should be possible, after all, we have that kind of love for our children, don’t we? However, the reality is that a marriage or relationship is a partnership, and when something happens that unbalances this partnership, whether it’s a job loss by one partner, and affair, or an accident that leaves them disabled, all too often, we simply cannot continue to love as we had before.

What we can do, however, is attempt to love unconditionally. Everyone has their deal breakers, and no one is saying you should forgive everything. There are some things that are just unforgiveable, and will stay that way, but if you examine every event, occurrence, statement or issue with a more careful eye, you may find that they are not worth the amount of fighting, arguing or effort you put into them.

If it’s not something you know will still be bothering you a year, or five, or ten years down the line, or if it’s something that was no one’s fault, like a job loss, or accident, consider letting it go. You’ll feel much, much better than you would had you fought about it.

9. Know Yourself

How can we ever expect to truly connect with another human being, if we have never truly connected with ourselves?

If you really want to connect with your partner, and enjoy a soulful and happy relationship, you first need to make sure you know yourself. What do you believe? What is most important to you – money, family, career, or something else? What is your greatest goal in life? What makes you angry, sad or happy? Until you can answer the important what’s and what if’s about yourself, you will always find it difficult to truly connect.

Figure out who you are, how and why you react as you do to the situations that occur in your life, and what you really want, and it will be easier to let your partner know, and figure out what they want. Otherwise, instead of togetherness, you might end up with two lives lived in parallel, never truly meeting – a recipe for disaster.

8. Give, and Take, a Little Space

There’s an old saying – absence makes the heart grow fonder. That saying is as true today as when it was first coined.

Too much togetherness can kill a relationship as quickly as too little, so make sure you cultivate your own interests, friends, and social life, and take time, just for you, every once in a while to enjoy them, while allowing your partner the same.

By doing the things you love, you feed your soul, and in doing so, and allowing your partner to do the same, you will bring more soul into your partnership. Whatever you do though, whether it’s listen to music, play a sport, go shopping with the girls or anything else, make sure it’s something that your partner would approve of.

7. Care

Ever heard the saying it’s the little things that count? That’s where caring comes in. If your partner is sick, take them tea or soup in bed. When they’re worried or tense, give them a massage.

All too often, we think love needs to be a big, showy expensive performance, when the truth is, a little caring, combined with the knowledge that you’re thinking about them, are concerned about their happiness and well being, and want to do everything you can to help, makes all the difference.

It could be something as simple as picking up the dry cleaning if you know they have to work late, but showing you care is guaranteed to bring the soul back into your relationship. Make a point to be considerate and caring, and see how it works for you!

6. Respect

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Aretha Franklin sang about it, we all pay it lip service, but how many of us really make sure we pay the important people in our lives respect?

Honesty and respect go hand in hand, so lying automatically cancels out respect, no matter how polite and considerate you may be, so remember that when you’re making an effort to respect your partner. Make a point of treating them exactly as you would like them to treat you, and you should find that you have a trouble free, soulful relationship.

When in doubt, remember what the bible has to say: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While you’re at it, why not apply that principle to everyone you meet? Treating people with respect is the very best way to earn respect, and you’ll be a lot happier all round if you have less conflict in your life.

5. Forgive

The fact is, when someone does something bad, hurtful or inconsiderate to you, you have two choices. You could choose to bear a grudge, allowing the sin they committed to fester in your heart and mind, poisoning you against them, and the rest of the world, for the rest of your life.

Or, you could choose to forgive them for their human foible, and move on with your life. Clearly the former is the far more destructive option, since, instead of putting their crime behind you, you begin to focus all your attention on it, to the exclusion of everything else. The result? They may blithely move on with their lives, while you live in abject misery.

Of course, in a relationship, when the misdeed is serious, like adultery, it’s impossible to simply walk away, and let them get away with it. If you don’t receive a sincere apology, and you feel the deed warrants it, you could always approach the courts for justice. But don’t let the deed, word or other crime of another ruin, or rule your life. If you do, you remain the loser forever.

If you have hurt your partner, by accident or knowingly, the only thing to do, is to sincerely ask for their forgiveness, and own up to your misdeed. Remember – small lies lead to bigger ones, until it will seem that your life is one big lie, and you are lost. Better to bear the brunt of their anger than the guilt.

4. Encourage

If you think about it, why do humans form relationships? To have a companion, someone to share their hopes, dreams, problems and joys with. A partner. The word says it all.

What better way for you and your partner to enjoy a more soulful relationship than by encouraging each other to achieve your goals and dreams. However, that encouragement should not mean that you fix everything for your loved one. As much as anything else, they should have the pride that comes from standing on their own two feet, and if you fix everything for them that would never happen.

Rather than being a substitute parent, focus on being a cheerleader, boosting their confidence, and convincing them that anything they put their minds to is possible, and remember, there’s nothing ,more demoralizing than being told by someone you love that your most dearly held hopes and dreams are out of your reach.

If your beloved does have some dreams that are, to your mind, a little ambitious, encourage them, and help them see that even the biggest hopes and dreams are achieved one small step at a time.

3. Communicate

Usually the number one rule in relationships, it’s pretty high on our list too. For a relationship to be soulful, you need to communicate with your partner.

And we’re not talking non committal grunts, or monosyllabic replies over the breakfast table here. You need to share your hopes, dreams and fears. If something in your relationship is making you unhappy or mad, get it out in the open. Never miss an opportunity to share your feelings, but remember to do so with respect, and taking into account that people are entitled to a difference of opinion.

If you’re not comfortable communicating on your own, face to face, or need some help getting started, consider seeing a couples counselor, or write each other notes. As long as your thoughts are heard, you’re making progress.

2. Enjoy

Too often we’re caught up in daily life’s minutiae, and we forget that we’re supposed to enjoy being together. The easiest way to do that is to share things you both love. Cook a great meal, or go to a restaurant you both love. Take a short trip together, even if it’s only to a neighboring town. Walk on the beach, go dancing, or watch a movie together, curled up on the couch.

Whatever you have in common is what brought you together in the first place, so make sure you make time for it, no matter what your schedule looks like. Or you could find something new that you love to do together. There are probably many things on both your lists of things to do in this life. Why not compare lists, and pick a few to try right now? Eventually, whether it’s bungee jumping together, or enjoying a specific cuisine, you’ll find something that brings both of you joy, that you can share with each other.

Joy is a rare thing in our hard, fast paced modern world, and when we can get it, we should grab it with both hands. What better way to find it, and keep it in our lives, than to rediscover all the things we love to do together, and them actually doing them?

1. Learn

Remember the first few weeks or months of your relationship? The delight you took in learning about your partner, their hopes, dreams, fears and passions? The wonder of uncovering the secrets of their personality, along with a hefty dose of biochemical’s, were what gave you that tingly feeling, that wondrous giddiness that comes with new love.

So, it’s been ten, or twenty years. Do you really think there’s nothing new to learn about your partner? Do you really think they haven’t changed, even a little, in those years? Make the effort to learn about your partner all the time – you might be surprised what you find.

Then again, you could make learning something new something that brings you closer together. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do something. Make it a couple project. Sign up for classes, and then go. Together. If nothing else, it will give you something to talk to each other about, and usually, once you start talking, it’s easy to carry on.

Make it a point, today, to find out something new about your partner. Ask them a question. Listen to the answer. Take note. Eventually, you may remember what it was that gave you those butterflies!

by Luther Avery  

Soulful Relationships -- Excerpts from Chapter 8 -

Unconditional Love

* There's no middle ground with this-love is either unconditional or conditional, and the latter is simply bartering attention to get something you want.

* If I love you unconditionally, you do not need to earn it, pass any tests, win any contests, or in any way deserve it. If you did need to prove your worth, you have tenure only until someone more worthy comes along-bluer eyes, whiter teeth, better cook, etc.

* Unconditional love says, "You can be who you really are, and share your deepest thoughts, fears and feelings in absolute surety that I won't judge you or stop loving you. We may agree to disagree on things but I will never reject you, for I am committed to your well-being and growth."

* When it comes to growth, how can one person support another? By criticizing, nit-icking, and pointing out flaws? Obviously not, but that's how most parents approach child-rearing; "Eat all your greens or mommy won't love you." That's flat-out manipulation but we carry that into adulthood, with "love" as a reward for a well-prepared meal or a promotion.

* Many people use "love" to coerce a mate into conforming to their opinion of how the mate should be (just watch a few movies on the Lifetime Channel). Such "love" forces the mate to contract and shrink into a little box, often with the justification, "I love you and want only what's best for you." This really means: "… what's best for me." On the other hand, unconditional love encourages expansion and growth, which brings us to how love really works.

1. Love Allows

* First, in a soulful relationship, love allows itself to flow. Love isn't a "doing" thing, but an allowing thing. Imagine love as water, and you're a hose. How big a hose are you? A tiny tube used in an irrigation drip-watering system? A standard garden hose? A fireman's hose? Or a huge pipeline? This obviously determines how much love can flow through you, which increases with practice. Next, are there any kinks or blockages stopping the flow? As an adult, your flow rate depends on how you were loved in the womb and then as a child. If, in those early years, you picked up some kinks and blockages, you have some work to do, as we saw earlier.

* Love also allows the beloved to be who he or she is, without seeking to change him or her, except for encouraging growth. We all know that it's impossible to change others; only they can change themselves but plenty of people do try … and end up exhausted and frustrated. It's about as pointless as mud-wrestling a pig---it's hard slippery work, and besides, the pig likes it.

2. Love Cares

* Love cares about the happiness of the beloved and constantly reminds him or her of how special and important he or she is to you. Love says, "You are valuable to me; I care about you and will do whatever I can to ensure your happiness."

3. Love Respects

* When you respect those you love, you honor them, are honest with them, let them be who they are without trying to change them, and want what is in their highest and best interest.

4. Love Forgives

* All of us incarnate to learn, grow and explore, and we inevitably screw up somewhere along the way and hurt someone else. If someone harms you, you have two options: (1) you can hold a grudge, or (2) you can forgive. Clearly, the first harms you further and gives all your power to the very person who harmed you, allowing that person to determine how you will feel.

* The second option allows you to move on, free of other people's energy, knowing that "they will get theirs" in their life review. You'll also live longer and healthier. However, the other person doesn't just walk away. They must be made to understand how you were harmed by their actions and offer a sincere apology and promise that it won't happen again. If they are spiritual, they will be eager to learn the consequences of a hurtful word or deed … otherwise there's always the court system. And if that deed stemmed from malicious intent rather than an innocent accident, the apology had better be good.

* If you're the miscreant, it's essential to own the deed, without finger-pointing or blame. Fess up and accept the consequences of your actions. And preferably apologize before you're found out. Suppose a friend confides a secret in you and you have too much to drink and blurt it out. Apologize before word gets back to your friend, who may then still have some respect for you.

5. Love Encourages

* Most of us have untapped strengths and potentials, and only discover these when slammed by some major Life Challenge. And if we run around "fixing" things for our friends and loved ones, we're simply enabling their victim-ness. Instead, love encourages others to find the strength and courage to tap their own potential, confidence and abilities to grasp life by the horns. Love en-courages others to explore the grandest expression of who they can be. And rather than nay-saying, love says, "Go for it! You can do it!"

6. Love Challenges

* Love's final gift in a soulful relationship is to challenge the other to rise and stretch to achieve a goal or blast through a self-limitation, and thereby grow. Love's encouragement reveals the strength or ability; love's challenge calls it into action. Love says, "You have the vision of your grandest expression, so now become that expression."

Given that love allows, cares, respects, forgives, encourages and challenges, the trick is to blend these ingredients in just the right proportion, or things won't balance. And the best way to avoid imbalance is communication. Ask, "How does it make you feel when I encourage you to find a better job?" or, "How does it make you feel when I dare you to ______?" Finding the right mixture of allowing, caring, encouraging and challenging is not easy, and both partners must communicate openly and frequently … for that, too, is part of growth.


A Soulful Relationship

Soulful Relationships

What determines the quality and quantity of your personal relationships?  I think the #1 factor is your mindset towards relationships.  There are many ways to frame the role of relationships in your life, and some options are more empowering than others.  Look at relationships one way, and you’ll find it difficult to relate to others.  But change your mindset in a certain way, and you’ll find yourself attracting compatible people with relative ease.
In this article I’ll share with you a mindset shift that significantly improved my personal relationships, including my marriage, friendships, and even everyday encounters with total strangers.  I’ll say up front that this was not an easy shift for me to make, but the results have been well worth the effort.
The mindset of disempowered relationships
First, let’s consider the basic objective mindset about relationships.  This mindset assumes that other people are separate and distinct from you, and you communicate with them through words, voice, and body language.
Here are some facets of the objective relationship framework:
  • Separation - Other people have their own thoughts which are separate and distinct from yours.
  • Risk of rejection - Human relationships are both imprecise and risky because you never know for certain what other people are thinking.
  • Potential resistance – It takes courage to approach a stranger; you never know what kind of resistance you may meet when you try to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know.
  • Trust takes time - Relationships are built on communication, trust, and familiarity, which takes time to build.
  • Bonding takes time - You feel closer to people you know and more distant from people you don’t know.  Total strangers are the biggest risk of all; the less you know about a person, the less certain you are of your mutual relationship prospects.
  • Risk of attachment – There’s a risk of becoming attached to destructive or abusive relationships (or simply those that no longer serve you) because you’ve invested so much time and energy in building them.
This is the basic relationship framework that most people identify with.  It’s so common we could call it “common sense.”
However, I consider this a disempowering mindset, not because it’s so terrible — it is fairly functional — but because there’s a more empowering alternative.  I spent most of my life using this framework, and I got average results with it.  I had fun spending time with friends, and I didn’t suffer from undue loneliness, but I never had close relationships with friends who’d encourage me to live up to my true potential or who’d allow me to do the same with them.  It was sort of an unspoken rule that you didn’t talk about things like mission, purpose, or service to the greater good.  Such topics were the domain of saints and historical figures, not ordinary people with bills to pay.
A chance encounter
One day I had a chance encounter with a peculiar woman.  I call it a chance encounter because our meeting was the result of an odd synchronicity.  During one of our first conversations together, I practically bared my soul to her.  She learned more about the real me in a single conversation than my other friends learned in years.  At the time I didn’t know why I felt open to discuss such things with her — I just felt safe with her, and I could tell she wasn’t judging me for being who I was.  We became close friends almost immediately.  I’d never had such a deep emotional bond with another person occur so quickly before.
As I got to see this woman interacting with others, I noticed how ridiculously easy it was for her to relate to people, whether in person, online, or on the phone.  Total strangers would just open up to her and tell her their darkest secrets in the first 10 minutes of conversation – I could scarcely believe it.  I had to ask this woman how she did it, and she explained that it was the result of a particular mindset she had about people.
For many years I resisted adopting her mindset as my own because even though I could see that it worked for her, it just didn’t seem accurate.  I felt like I’d be adopting a false view of reality, but I also wondered how a false view could produce such positive results.
Eventually I relaxed my skepticism enough to try it, and she was right.  It made a huge difference for me too.  I began attracting new friends much more easily.
As you might have guessed, that peculiar woman was Erin, who’s been my wife for 12+ years now.  If you’ve ever talked with her yourself, you already know what she’s like.  She talks to you as a fellow soul, treating you as a real human being instead of as your job title, your physical appearance, or your personality.  She connects with people so easily and so naturally that grown men often cry during phone readings with her.
While Erin certainly has some serious natural talent in this area, I’ve seen that her mindset is a key component of her ability to genuinely connect.  She doesn’t do anything premeditated or manipulative – her ability to connect is a natural consequence of her beliefs.  And to the degree I’ve been able to adopt her beliefs in this area, I’ve been able to get closer to her results.  My results aren’t a match for hers, but fortunately this isn’t an all-or-nothing deal.
The mindset of empowered relationships
So what is the mindset that makes it so much easier to relate to people?  Here it is in a nutshell:
Everyone you meet in your life — even total strangers — is already intimately connected to you.  The idea that we are all separate and distinct beings is nothing but an illusion.  We are all parts of a larger whole, like individual cells in a body.
Moreover, everyone and everything you see out there in your world are reflections of you.  Just as the cells in an organism carry the same DNA, other people are walking around with some part of you inside them.  When you look at other people, you’re really looking at yourself.  When you notice other people, it’s just like your eyes observing your hands.  We’re all parts of the same whole.
Here are some facets of this interconnected model of relationships:
  • Oneness - Other people are not separate and distinct from you.  In fact, they are you.
  • Connectedness – You don’t have to “build” relationships with others because you’re already connected.  You need only tune into the pre-existing connection that’s already there.
  • No risk - Little or no courage is required to approach strangers.  You’re never actually building new connections from scratch.  You’re just recognizing what’s already there.
  • Equality – You can feel just as close to total strangers as you do to your friends.
  • Significance – All relationships are significant; none are irrelevant.  Even the strangers you pass on the street are important parts of you.
  • Love without attachment - Letting go of harmful relationships is easier because you’re still unconditionally connected to everyone else.  As you release old relationships that no longer serve you, you’ll attract new ones that are compatible with you.
Initially I found this a totally alien mindset.  It was only in seeing the results first-hand that I became a convert.  Interestingly, I wasn’t into subjective reality when I first adopted this mindset, but this is in fact the subjective reality view of relationships in a nutshell.
One of the side effects of this mindset is that Erin and I are constantly meeting people through synchronicities… people we feel we were supposed to meet.  I first read about these kinds of encounters in The Celestine Prophecy.  When you have a certain mindset about relationships, you begin to attract the right people at the right times.  That’s precisely how Erin and I met as well.
For example, Erin and I recently spent several days in Sedona, Arizona.  This was the first time either of us had ever been to that city.  One day we walked into a shop we’d never been to before, picked up a strong vibe from a total stranger, started talking, and 30 minutes later we had become friends and said goodbye with hugs.  This woman also sent us a gift in the mail a week later to thank us for some guidance we gave her.  For Erin and me, this has become an increasingly common event.  And believe me — before I had this mindset I could never walk into some random store and expect to be hugging someone I’d never met only 30 minutes later.
I think the reason this mindset is so effective is that when you assume a pre-existing connection with another person, s/he will tend to respond in kind.  Usually the best way to break the ice with someone is to assume there never was any ice to begin with.
I also like that this is an easy way to identify highly conscious people.  The more conscious and self-aware someone is, the more easily and naturally they’ll respond to someone who relates to them as a real human being right off the bat.
Applying the empowering mindset
When you adopt the mindset that we’re all inherently connected, these are some of the actions and results that will come naturally to you:
  • Easy rapport - You’ll connect with strangers almost as easily as you connect with your closest friends, sometimes more easily.  The difference between strangers and friends is intellectual familiarity, but you can tap into an intuitive familiarity even with someone you’ve never met.
  • Fairness – You’ll begin to feel a kinship with everyone, regardless of familiarity.
  • Attraction – Because you’re always open to connecting with people, you’ll begin attracting new relationships fairly easily.  Compatible people will be drawn to you.
  • Synchronicity – You’ll experience a swell in synchronicities that lead to chance encounters, meeting people you feel very drawn to meet.
  • Social courage – Have you ever seen someone at a distance you felt you were supposed to meet?  Have you ever run into the same stranger multiple times in the same day?  With the right belief system, you’ll feel confident beginning a conversation with such people, and you’ll find that your hunches were right on — you were supposed to meet.
  • Deeper relationships - You’ll enjoy deeper, less superficial relationships, getting to know people at the level of soul.
  • Energy - You’ll attract relationships that energize you rather than drain you.
  • Reading people – Because we’re all connected, you can mentally connect with other people and literally share the same thoughts in a way that goes beyond words, voice, and body language.  You can even do it at a distance.  With practice you can get an accurate read on someone you’ve never met, picking up specific data about that person that you couldn’t have known in a purely objective sense.  Practice increases both your accuracy and your ability to trust the information you pick up.
These benefits aren’t either-or.  You gradually gain them as your awareness of our spiritual interconnectedness grows.
Fearless relationships
While you can get some of these benefits while still clinging to an objective model of relationships, I think it would be very difficult.  The real key is removing fear from the equation.  When you can relate to people without fear, which is a natural consequence of the belief that we’re all connected, then it becomes much easier to form deep connections with other human beings.

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you can probably guess that if you were to meet me in person, you wouldn’t have to begin a conversation with me by chatting about the weather.  We could just talk soul-to-soul about anything, and you needn’t be afraid of me judging you because my belief is that you’re an integral and inseparable part of me.  But that’s because you already know a lot about me and my mindset from reading my articles, so you already have some familiarity with me, and that reduces your social risk with me.  However, the truth is that you can achieve the same level of rapport with a total stranger when you get an intuitive read that s/he will be receptive.  Your social conditioning will cause you to focus on the fear of rejection, but with the mindset of interconnectedness, you’ll focus on the opportunities for connection instead.
My understanding is that the mindset of interconnectedness isn’t only more empowering than the objective mindset — it’s also more accurate.  Our fundamental interconnectedness was one of the most empowering realizations I ever had… and also one of the most humbling.  It keeps my ego in check to know that this Steve person I inhabit is just one cell in a much larger body.  We all are.  And the best we can do with our lives is to achieve the point of optimal balance whereby serving our own needs and serving the whole body are congruent.  A body does not survive by sacrificing the cells that serve it, and a cell does not survive by sacrificing the body that hosts it.

Interdependence is a higher level of consciousness than independence.  Fear serves the latter; fearlessness, the former.

If you're not married yet, share this with a friend. If you are married, share it with your spouse or other married couples and reflect on it.

An African proverb states, "Before you get married, keep both eyes open, and after you marry, close one eye."

Before you get involved and make a commitment to someone, don't let lust, desperation, immaturity, ignorance, pressure from others or a low self-esteem, make you blind to warning signs. Keep your eyes open, and don't fool yourself that you can change someone or that what you see as faults aren't really important.

Once you decide to commit to someone, over time his or her flaws, vulnerabilities, pet peeves, and differences will become more obvious. If you love your mate and want the relationship to grow and evolve, you've got to learn to close one eye and not let every little thing bother you. You and your mate have many different expectations, emotional needs, values, dreams, weaknesses, and strengths. You are two unique individual children of God who have decided to share a life together.

Neither of you are perfect, but are you perfect for each other? Do you bring out the best in each other?

Do you compliment and compromise with each other, or do you compete, compare, and control? What do you bring to the relationship? Do you bring past relationships, past hurt, past mistrust, past pain? You can't take someone to the altar to alter him or her. You can't make someone love you or make someone stay.

If you develop self-esteem, spiritual discernment, and "a life", you won't find yourself making someone else responsible for your happiness or responsible for your pain.

Manipulation, control, jealousy, neediness, and selfishness are not the ingredients of a thriving, healthy, loving and lasting relationship! Seeking status, sex, wealth, and security are the wrong reasons to be in a relationship. What keeps a relationship strong?

Communication, intimacy, trust, a sense of humor, sharing household tasks, some getaway time without business or children and daily exchanges (a meal, shared activity, a hug, a call, a touch, a note).

Leave a nice message on the voicemail or send a nice email.

Sharing common goals and interests. Growth is important. Grow together, not away from each other, giving each other space to grow without feeling insecure. Allow your mate to have outside interest. You can't always be together. Give each other a sense of belonging and assurances of commitment. Don't try to control one another. Learn each other's family situation. Respect his or her parents regardless.

Don't put pressure on each other for material goods. Remember for richer or for poorer. If these qualities are missing, the relationship will erode as resentment, withdrawal, abuse, neglect, dishonesty, and pain replace the passion.

The difference between 'United' and 'Untied' is where you put the i.

By Rev. Ronald McFadden

Notes 28.11.2009

"Everyone needs a supply of energy that is renewable, vibrant, unstressful and uplifting.

Such an energy supply is within you. It's your spiritual energy, and it comes from everywhere. The universe is grounded in infinite energy—I don't think anyone would argue that—and throughout the world's wisdom traditions, sages and teachers echo the same truth: You are the universe. The mystic Persian poet Rumi puts it beautifully when he reminds us that we aren't a drop in the ocean; we are the ocean in a drop.

The film reinforces a core belief of mine, that positive wins over the negative. In fact I grew up in an innocent world to a large extent, with more positive than negative and always believed in the positive. It’s certainly made me a happier person but most important, it makes people around happy too. :) In fact the greatest challenge is seeing the positive in the negative!"


The film reinforces a core belief of mine, that positive wins over the negative. In fact I grew up in an innocent world to a large extent, with more positive than negative and always believed in the positive. It’s certainly made me a happier person but most important, it makes people around happy too. :) In fact the greatest challenge is seeing the positive in the negative!

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.
Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.
If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.
‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present .’ -

37 Seconds To Read: May Change Your View For A Lifetime

"Behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress."

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

"It's about putting the soul back into society.
It's about helping each other not for profit, but just for the love-of-it."

The Free-economy

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ten Things to Be Thankful For

Embrace those around you and give thanks for the love.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I think it's important to take a gratitude inventory. A number of things in life can make us uncomfortable or even a little miffed. But sometimes they are gifts in disguise. With that in mind, here are my top ten things to be thankful for.

1. Be thankful for growing older. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Aging with health and grace is a rare and beautiful gift.

2. Be thankful that you can read these words. It is a very sad thing that many people do not have the ability to read.

3. If you have to wait in line at the supermarket for your Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful that you can afford what you want to eat and have a convenient place to buy it. We are all aware of the many people waiting in line to have a meal at the local homeless shelter.

4. Be thankful for the ability to pay your bills, even if it means that you have to give up some things that you want. Remember that having basic needs met is a luxury for many people.

5. If you have to get up before dawn to get to work, be thankful that you get to see another sunrise and have a job to go to. Think about what it would be like if you slept everyday until noon and spent the rest of your waking hours wondering what to do with your life.

6. When you're stuck in traffic, be thankful you have a car to get where you need to go and money to buy gas. Standing in the rain while waiting for a bus is, at the very least, uncomfortable.

7. When the kids are screaming at each other, be thankful that you have children to love and who love you, and remember that at least some of the time, they do get along. There will always be bumps in the road, but they are usually followed by easier times.

8. When your mate is acting grumpy or giving you a hard time, be thankful for having love in your life and someone to grow old with. A life partner is something that less than half the population has. Having your partner is a blessing that needs to be counted several times.

9. When your parents are telling you how to run your life, be thankful that you still have them around. If they are no longer with you, take a moment to be thankful for the time you had with them.

10. When you sit down with your loved ones for your Thanksgiving dinner, be thankful for everyone and everything that makes it possible. Look your family and friends in the eye and express to them your gratitude for sharing this wonderful time together.

Thanksgiving is a very special holiday. Embrace those around you and your ability to give thanks to those you love.

by Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mary's story

I’m about ready to return to writing about what I know best – marriage and families. I thought since I’ve been gone so long, I would re-introduce myself to you.

Brief Bio Data 

I grew up in Cajun country, South Louisiana. I’m the second of four siblings and the fifth of 39 first cousins. Most of my extended family lives within a fifty miles radius of my hometown. I started and directed a Cajun Cousins family camp that met for three days each year at a Louisiana state park for eight years, with an average attendance of around 100 cousins!

When I met Chuck, he was divorced for five years with sole custody of a 9 year old daughter and an 8 year old son, who had no contact from their biological Mom. When we married 38 years ago, these two became MY kids, – and then we added one biological son. We have an 18 year old granddaughter, a 15 year old grandson, and a 15 month old grandson.

Chuck is an electrical engineer and a pilot. He designed radio and television antennas until 1987, when his focus moved to general aviation. He designs navigation and landing aids, and runway and lighting systems for airports throughout the state of Texas.

I’m a marriage and family therapist, and a writer. I returned to college at the ripe age of 52, completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years, and started my family therapy practice in 2004.

How have we simplified marriage effectively?

Nothing about our marriage has been simple. We didn’t start simply, nor have we achieved simplicity. But we are better at it each year of our lives together. We embrace the reality that resources are limited – there’s only so much time, energy, and money available to us and we want to choose wisely how we spend those resources. That reality has more meaning to us now that we are both on the plus side of fifty.

How do you find harmony in marriage, work, blogging, fun? 

For most of our marriage, we’ve had the luxury and challenge of being able to spend more time working from home than we do in our offices. This arrangement has provided us with many more hours of contact in a normal day. During our child rearing years, this was more of a challenge; now that we are empty-nesters, it is a definite luxury!

I love to cook, entertain, and dig in the dirt [garden]. We both love travel, music, fixing things, and talking about things that matter. We have closely aligned values that we hold sacred – our Christian faith, our country, work ethic, and love of learning. We make each other laugh!

What can other couples learn from your marriage? 

Marriages are not equal opportunity arrangements. At different times, one partner will carry a heavier load than the other. We were, and are still committed to extending ourselves for the well-being of one another. In the early years, I carried a heavy load of parenting two step-children, an infant, running a household, and taking care of all the administrative duties of Chuck’s business. When I returned to school, Chuck ran the household, kept me technologically current, read my papers, challenged my thinking, and did it all while keeping his business going. Believing in your partner is a way of bringing out the best in your partner AND yourself!

What are your marriage dreams? 

That our children and grandchildren will be able to look at our marriage as more of a “how-to” model than a “how-NOT-to” model!

Any other thing Simple Marriage readers would benefit from knowing? 

Realize that your life belongs to others just as much as it belongs to you [taken from Henri Nouwen]. It’s not possible to get what you want from life without thinking of others – and if you could do just that, you’d find that without others, getting what you want would become meaningless.

We were made for relationship. We are co-creators of everything that happens in our relationship. Focus on your part of creating the relationship you long to have by doing what you know needs to be done – and by NOT doing what you know you shouldn’t do. Enjoy the ride!

Mary Ann Crossno

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buddha Heart Parenting

The future depends on what we do in the present – Mahatma Gandhi

You must be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi

What is Buddha Heart Parenting? Buddha Heart Parenting is Buddhist parenting ie it is a way of parenting that integrates Buddhist philosophy and contemporary psychology to arrive at a method of parenting that is both effective and allows family members to realise their true Buddha nature. What more could we ask for?

“Buddha Heart” or “Buddha Nature” is the potential of our mind to become the mind of a Buddha. We have always had this potential, and always will.

Until you reach the path,
You wander the world
With the precious Buddha
Completely wrapped up inside
As in a bundle of rags
…you have this precious Buddha. Unwrap it quickly!
From the Sutra of the Holy Buddha.

Buddha Heart parenting is not a new parenting style – it is a combination of tried and proven ways to bring joy to family life and to our role as parents, whilst deepening our study and practice of the Buddhist teachings. It is timeless and appropriate for all historic periods.

Core aspects of Buddha Heart parenting are compassion, loving kindness and cooperation. It is a form of parenting that is a step beyond democratic parenting. It builds on the communication skills within democratic parenting to create compassionate communication.

Within Buddha Heart parenting there are a number of strategies and techniques we can use to help our children to modify their behaviour and develop a code of ethics. These techniques give us options other than reward and punishment as a means to develop appropriate behaviour in our children. There are strategies that help our child learn cause-effect and responsible, compassionate action; to learn to effectively solve their own problems to the higher good of all concerned; to understand and express their feelings; to listen empathically to others and understand their feelings and needs; and there are strategies to support us to meet both our child’s needs and our own.

The most important thing that determines the success of these strategies and techniques is whether we are coming from our own Buddha Heart when we use them.

Instead of being the boss and in control of our children, our role is more as an enabler, as a facilitator of our children’s empowerment. Our aim is to support our children to develop self-discipline, not to reward or punish them in order to teach appropriate behaviour.

Buddhism and Parenting

Do not do anything harmful;
do only what is good;
purify and train your own mind:
this is the teaching of the Buddha;
this is the path to enlightenment
The Buddha

We don’t all have the opportunity to devote our lives to the study of Buddhist philosophy or to spend long periods in meditation retreat. And we don’t have to. We still need to devote some time to the study of Buddhist principles and concepts and as parents we have the unique opportunity to apply the Dharma in our life. Our deep love and concern for our children provide us with an incredible incentive to study and apply the Buddhist teachings to all our interactions with them. They allow us the precious opportunity to practice and live the Dharma.

Compassion and wisdom lie at the heart of Buddhist philosophy. All of us would like our parenting to be based on compassion and wisdom. This combination is as essential to parenting as it is to Buddhism.

When we parent using Buddhist principles and concepts we undergo an internal transformation. Buddhism is about the study of the mind, and when we put the fruits of this study into practice in our daily life with our children wonderful things happen. Not only do we experience an internal transformation and move closer to realising our true Buddha nature, our children also move closer to realising their true Buddha nature.

A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden. Buddha

Compassionate Communication

In all our interactions with our child a compassionate connection comes first. This connection is at the core of Buddha Heart Parenting and creates a mutually respectful, enriching dynamic that is filled with clear compassionate communication from one heart to another.

Compassionate communication is used to meet our child’s needs of recognition, inclusion, contribution, acceptance, consideration, and support. It is at the heart of problem solving and relationship building.

How we communicate is an important part of our Buddhist practice. Buddhism has precepts that provide a condensed form of Buddhist ethical practice, and communication features as the fourth of these precepts:

Aware of suffering caused by the inability to listen to others and unmindful speech, I vow to cultivate deep listening and loving speech in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or bring suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope.

Compassionate communication helps us to see our child’s behaviour in a different light. Once we do that it is much easier to act with compassion and wisdom rather than reacting to their behaviour. Behaviour comes from feelings, and emotions come from needs – either met or unmet – and if we can understand our own or our child’s needs, we will understand the emotion and see their behaviour differently. The skills of compassionate communication guide us through this process of understanding and allow us to compassionately meet our child’s needs, which will mean the emotion will disappear and the inappropriate behaviour will cease.

When we engage in compassionate communication our children, whatever their age, will feel loved and valued. When they feel loved and valued they are:

* Happier
* Able to think for themselves
* Able to make decisions
* More optimistic
* More confident to try new things
* More responsible
* Compassionate – care about and help others
* Able to understand the Dharma.

So what are the specific skills of compassionate communication and how can we develop these skills? To answer the second question first, we can develop these skills through understanding and practice. The skills of compassionate communication fall into three categories: those that focus on our child, skills that focus on ourselves, and skills that combine both.

Skills that focus on the child are feedback (developing the skill of self-encouragement); empathic listening, and problem solving (when the child has the problem). Skills that focus on us are slef-expression, and solution finding (when we have a problem). Skills that incorporate both are participatory decision-making, family meetings and joint solution finding.

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. Buddha


The thought manifests as the word:
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings…

As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

We can support self-realisation for our children and for ourselves. There are skills and strategies that create self-empowered, resilient children and capable decision makers.

One of our aims in parenting is to support our children to be self-empowered. There is a lot of talk these days about empowerment. Many people believe we can empower others, but that is not true. Empowerment is something that comes from inside the individual. It is a drive. As outsiders we can provide an environment that may trigger or support this drive, but we cannot actually empower someone else.

How we can support our children to be empowered is by providing them with the opportunity and then the skills and tools to do it. To be empowered children need skills in compassionate communication, solution finding, and decision making, and they need life skills in general. They also need strong self-esteem and an understanding that they are in charge of their life and that their actions result in effects. They need an understanding of Buddhist philosophy, which they can gain even if they have never read the Dharma.

As parents we want our children to be resilient to the hardship and events in life that can cause pain and suffering. Resilience also safeguards our children against becoming involved in activities that may cause them harm such as drug taking, reckless behaviour and crime. The combination of Buddha Heart Parenting and Buddhist principles build resilience and strength in our child.

Buddha Heart Parenting provides us with specific skills, strategies and techniques to build resilience in our children.

With sustained effort and sincerity
Discipline and self-control
The wise become like islands
Which no flood can overwhelm.

Connected Relationships

The joys and rewards of parenting are to be found in creating a deep connection with our child. The underlying ethos of Buddha Heart Parenting provides the fabric for this deep connection. The skills and strategies provide the weave.

As our child learns and uses the skills and strategies themselves, the connection will deepen.

It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.
Mother Teresa

A rich relationship is one where there is a deep connection based on loving-kindness. It is all about where we focus. Do we focus on ourselves, or do we focus on our child? When we focus on our child, and that is, when we truly focus on our child, we make a deep connection. And when we make a deep connection we make rich relationships.

If we feel we have lost the connection we had with our children when they were younger, it is easy to reconnect – Buddha Heart Parenting shows the way. This book is based on Buddhist wisdom and compassion and seeks to support parents to build connected relationships with their children.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Mother Teresa

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cultivating other-centeredness

By Maureen Healy
Cultivating other-centeredness is central to happiness. It is the ability to think of others. Other-centeredness is in stark contrast to self-centeredness. Self-centeredness is when you are only thinking of yourself. Buddhists commonly believe that the more you think of others, the happier you are. In other words, it is skillful to cultivate other-centeredness even if it is for your own personal benefit or happiness.

Self Centeredness = Pain 

Eastern thinking even goes as far to say the more you think of yourself, the more pain you are likely to experience. The more you think of others, the happier you are. So how do we get children to begin thinking of others from the get-go? Like most meaningful questions the answers aren’t completely easy but here are some tips:
  • Model thinking of others – No surprise here. Kids imprint what they see, hear and see around them. Becoming a person that makes focusing upon others a priority will naturally help your child develop an other-centric attitude. For example, Joanna the mom takes her daughter, Anna age 5, to volunteer at a women’s shelter monthly. Anna stated “I love it” and it “feels so good to help others.” A simple example but also one that has the potential to have a lasting and positive effect.
  • Encourage generosity with others – Depending upon the age, temperament, family dynamic and parenting approach, some kids share really easily while others have a terrible time with it! Guiding your child to positively share is positive parenting. You might say to your child: “Sharing helps others” and “Someday you might want someone to share with you, so let’s start sharing today.” Such sayings are easier with kids over 5 years old but possible for every child.
  • Praise a child’s efforts to expand awareness – Children learn to share from little things to bigger things over time. Young children (ages 3-5) often learn how to share with animals or display kindness, middle-aged children (5-8 yrs old) learn to share with other kids easier and older children (ages 8-12) often can begin learning to share in school, with family members and the community. Being able to teach sharing in steps helps children raise awareness from self, self to animal, self to peers and self to others.
  • Observe positive results – Children that share consistently and repeatedly are learning skills of positive emotional health. Amy, age 8, shared her eraser with her friend, Joey, in school. Later on she reported to me, it made me feel good. When I can help others, I do it because it makes me happy, Amy added. With some age-appropriate nudging, kids can really learn to consistently share and think of others.
  • Be creative and have fun – Encourage thinking about others in purposeful and playful ways such as: baking cookies for your local fire department or bringing someone sick something to eat or making “Get Well” or “Happy Thanksgiving” cards for friends, family members, teachers or a new pen pal. It doesn’t need to cost a lot to gently guide your child to begin thinking beyond him or herself.
Other-centeredness = Happiness

Every child is born thinking of his or her self. It is natural. Guiding a child to begin expanding his or her awareness is helping a child plant seeds of lasting happiness, not fleeting happiness like an ice cream cone. But true and lasting happiness that comes from inner peace. It doesn’t happen overnight but is a practice. It is a day-by-day and week-by-week practice to guide and encourage your child to share, display kindness, practice generosity and think of others.

Every parent and child has the opportunity to grow kinder, wiser and happier as the days fly by. I understand it isn’t always easy. My work often brings me children who want deeply to be happy but are taking a crooked route to get there – my suggestion is that in anyway you can help a child learn how to think of others, cultivate other-centeredness versus self-centeredness – you are giving them an enormous gift and secret piece of the happiness puzzle that will serve them their whole lives. I promise.

by Maureen Healy
Maureen is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, a worldwide organization focused upon fostering happiness in children.

Raising Happy Kids

Childhood is an incredibly sensitive time when the seeds of happiness are planted. It is such seeds that help a child form a positive self-concept, worldview and connection to all of humanity. Internal qualities to develop that contribute to happiness are kindness, compassion, self-confidence, self-trust, equanimity, courage, generosity, gratitude and optimism.

Eastern thinkers have reminded us that true, and lasting happiness stems from an internal state of mind. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained, "Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors." Influencing the formation of a child's positive attitude and skillful worldview is positive parenting. It is step one in raising a happy child.

Helping a child feel good about him or herself and learn how to cultivate a mental state that supports positive emotions (love, generosity, joy, kindness) while diminishing negative states (sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, hatred) is the path towards fostering happiness in kids.

Happy Kids

So what does a happy child look like? You know. Sally has a smiling face. Chris cheers on his sister at a soccer game. Happy kids aren't perfect kids but they often look at the positive side of life, and feel good about what is happening in and around them. It has been my observation and research that happy kids are also marked by 3 distinct experiences in childhood. They are:
  • Helpful to Others - Happy Kids learn early-on that helping others is not only a kind thing to do but helps them feel good too. Adults can call it charitable works, generosity, compassion, volunteerism or just plain niceness to help others out. It may holding a door open for an elderly person, writing a "Get Well" card to Grandma or donating food to a food bank.
  • Unique Expression - Happy Kids are encouraged to express their unique creativity and talents. Parents, adults and caregivers encourage children to discover and explore their unique interests from painting to learning a new language. So Pamela is given piano lessons because of her enthusiasm and interest in the piano (not her parents!).
  • Safe and Supported - Happy Kids feel safe and secure in their households. They are not worried about their drunken mothers or fathers hitting them or other types of family abuse. Such kids feel safe in their home environments both physically and emotionally. Words spoken to kids are supportive and encouraging so they begin to believe the world will support them, and life can be fun.
Positive Parenting

Raising happy kids takes time, effort and dedication to bringing out their best. Every child is also unique and different. There really is no effective "cookie cutter" approach to raising happy kids - just effective tools and a well paved path to follow from those who came before us. It is helpful to remember even though happiness is a popular topic in the West today - people have studied it, explored it and experienced it for thousands of years.

So I invite you along to stay connected and stay tuned into my Blog as I explore how to raise happier and more confident kids over the coming months.

by Maureen Healy
Maureen is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, a worldwide organization focused upon fostering happiness in children.

Raising a Confident Child

The roots of self-confidence are born or broken in childhood. Early experiences shape our sense of self. It is often just little words that wound kids or empower their dreams. So having a heightened awareness as to the enormous power of your words and communication to kids is essential for fostering confidence in children.

Cultivating Confidence

Confidence literally means “with trust” or “with faith” and this seems correct to me. A confident child demonstrates self-trust in his or her abilities. Such confidence is developed over time but it is shaken or supported by the surrounding adults. Cultivating confidence in children takes time, effort and mindfulness. Some key tips are:
  • Mirror – Mirror back to your child his or her strengths, skills and qualities that create a positive view of self. Julie, age 5, played “Mary had a little lamb” by memory on my piano last week. Every child in the room was happy and excited to sing along. Soon Julie’s mom made her way to Julie and said “Thank you Sweetheart! You are so talented” and so quickly did you see Julie’s confidence soar.
  • Encourage – Every child needs encouragement. It is encouragement that actually enables a child to risk becoming more and believing in him or her self. Not long ago I watched Joshua ride his bicycle for the first time without training wheels along with his Dad’s encouragement! His positive sense of self was palpable.
  • Extend Trust – Extend trust to your child. Let him or her know that you believe in their abilities. For example, Erin volunteered to make the salad for her family. She was a little nervous but had watched her mother make it almost nightly. Instead of micromanaging her, Erin’s mom said, “I trust you to make a great salad!” Although this sounds like an itty-bitty thing to a child it’s a positive emotional message being sent to her. She begins creating positive self-thoughts such as “I can do it” and “I am capable.”
  • Let them “Show Off” – Give your child an opportunity to show you and others their skills. It may be doing summersaults, singing, hula hoping or completing a complicated puzzle all alone. Whatever the skill give your child a chance to shine!
  • View mistakes as gifts – Like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stated, “There are no mistakes, no coincidences. Just gifts given to us to learn from” and I believe this to be true. Helping a child shape a worldview where mistakes are not only expected but accepted as necessary parts of his or her growth is essential – it helps them feel good regardless of whether they fail or succeed at a task.
  • Praise them – Praise your child and not necessarily what they do. A common mistake in parenting is to solely focus on what your child does (i.e. plays violin, gets good grades) versus who your child is in this moment. Children grow confidence from feeling good about who they are on the inside and trusting whoever they are is good, capable, smart and able to face whatever life presents them (i.e. bully or a best friend).
  • Be Confident – Children imprint what they see and look to model the behavior of the honored people in their life. So working on being the confident adult that you are (or can become!) will enormously help develop this quality in your child.
Simple but not easy

Saying all the right things to children isn’t always easy. It takes effort and mindfulness. Some straightforward things that undermine a child’s confidence are listed below. Please avoid the following:
  • Harsh Criticism
  • Questioning Them (constantly)
  • Praising Solely Actions (not them)
  • Discouraging Exploration
  • Comparing them to other kids
Each of these may sound so obvious but it does take mindfulness and awareness in what you say as well as the nonverbal communication that you send to your child (i.e. emotions, body language). I am a firm believer that children digest the words and feelings all around them like food.

Confidence as Core

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy,” explained Norman Vincent Peale. I believe this to be true. Confidence is a prerequisite to pursuing your dreams, believing in your talents and paving your unique path of highest potential. So mindfully cultivating self-confidence in children is really giving them a foundation upon which their own happiness can grow!

Maureen's blog

The Heart of Gratitude

Getting to the heart of gratitude is worthy work. So many of us can think thankful thoughts and say simple appreciative sayings but how many of us genuinely feel a deep well of gratitude daily? It is this authentic appreciation for all the good that comes our way that helps us live longer, feel better and create positive connections in the world around us (per the latest scientific studies). As well as sets an extraordinary example for our children to create lives full of thankfulness.

Generating Gratitude

Each of us travels our own unique path towards gratitude. And each of us learns how to generate it differently. Take me for example. Maybe I was a slow learner and needed to go to a developing nation, live at the Base Himalayas, work with Tibetan refugee children and wash out of bucket in the middle of winter for months to really appreciate the creature comforts of the modern world. Let me tell you, it worked!

So honoring your own individual journey is important. And I believe deepening your level of gratitude in a way that feels right to you and supports a skillful worldview has the potential to be incredibly positive and powerful. So to take thankfulness into practice included below are a few ways to activate appreciation:

  • Physical Reminders - Maybe you need to tie a ribbon around your pinkie to remember to buy milk on the way home. The same goes for feeling thankfulness. I leave a Yak blanket out so I recall what it was like to live in a country without heat in the middle of the winter for 4 months (happily might I add). Or perhaps you post your favorite thankfulness prayer somewhere visible to activate this emotion. The art of placing something external has a deep impression on both the conscious and unconscious mind (don't believe me though - try it).
  • Sounds - Songs are a powerful part of deepening our experience of thankfulness. A song that relaxes my mind and focuses it upon the positive aspects may not work for you. What I do know is music can relax us, awaken us and remind us of all of our good fortune whether it is chanting a Buddhist mantra like "Om Mani Padme Hung" or a top 40 tune - find a song that makes you feel happy to be alive (thankful if you will).
  • Stories - Reading stories about other parts of the world like Greg Mortensen's 3 Cups of Tea will also likely activate appreciation (i.e. they built schools one rock at a time). Such stories encourage us to see the sacredness in everyday things such as a paved road and washing machine.
  •  Gratitude Habits - Some folks have "a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, wonder and ecstasy" stated Maslow, founder of Humanistic Psychology. Such a level of appreciation takes awareness and insight and is often activated by creating habits of feeling and thinking gratitude such as:
- Sharing a Gratitude Thought before Meals or Before Sleep Nightly
- Making a mental gratitude list daily
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Meditating and recalling all the people who have helped you in a little or big way. Or the people who haven't as they taught you patience, tolerance and forgiveness.
- Saying gratitude affirmations upon waking (i.e. Thank You for this perfect day.)

Raising Great-full Kids

Cultivating gratitude in kids begins with your own practice. Kids will mirror what they see, hear and feel each day. So incorporating a practice of gratitude into your day-to-day routine with children is crucial - it can be a family practice of saying something we are grateful for before sleep or making up a silly but thankful saying before dinner. Like my Dad used to say, "Rub a Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub, YAY God!" but as a kid it taught me however silly I need to be its okay but never forget to thank away.

By Maureen Healy

Author of 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids available on Amazon Dec 1, 2009 and in stores everywhere January 10, 2010.

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